Your latest work Venus is about the erotization of young girls. Posing the question what it is like to be a girl in the 2020s, you worked with four teenage girls in a collaborative process (your daughter included). How did the idea for the piece came to life and how did you develop the performance together with the four teenagers?
Some time back, when my daughter was in her pre-teens, I started noticing a change in how she was presenting herself online and out in the world. The little unaware child was replaced by someone acting out (accompanied by her friends) classical so called male gaze material. She had learned how to dress, what sort of positions to take and what angle to use the camera in. I found that was unsettling and decided to start making a piece about that with her. It happened to be Covid lock-down as well so I had no-one else to work with. We did a couple of residencies, just the two of us, making and sharing material between us.
Then I invited three teenagers I had worked with previously in Teen (2017/2021) and designers to join us. The whole working group is made of people who grew up as girls and the process was beautiful! We talked about what it was to be a girl now and how it was when me and the other adults grew up. Then we made texts, movement and relation to audience based on these discussions. Hanna Parry, who commissioned the work for Baltic Circle festival found us a space in Lauttasaari to put the show in. The place has feminist history and inspired the work even further.
Let’s speak about Venus and the associations that are evocated by the title of the performance, regarding love, beauty, desire and the image of a perfect body. You are challenging the images of the goddess of love through the lens of teenagers growing up within the attention economy of social media – exposing their life and bodies to the gaze and judgement of others. Would you like to talk about this?
Well, we all need the attention of others and when you are in your teens or a young adult the need is even bigger because everything in you changes so quickly. So girls put material online to check if they are desired and they learn what sort of material is successful or accepted. We went on a quest to dismiss what is accepted and asked what sort of a goddess we want to be? So we collected words to describe this new goddess and made spells to bring it out! We ended up with: Angry, Dopey, Dramatic, Problematic, Adolescent, Intimidating, Trouble-making, Delusional, Not funny, Too much and too little, Gullible, Shit faced, Slow-paced, Like everyone and like no one, Crazy, Loud, Unstable.
We ended up in a place where The Venus of this piece is honest, humble and kind, but also dopey, problematic and loud. We want there to be girliness that is manifold. Girls don’t fit one mold. It is incredible that such a basic thing as acceptance is so rare to come by still.
There a spells, witch-circles, rituals in Venus. I am curious to hear your thoughts about screaming and girls using their voice! Are loud girls, loud women still not accepted in our society?
Don’t think so. Women scream and men shout. We use different words for making loud noise, women seem to be in trouble, men not. Also being loud is taking the space and attention, and there are not many spaces for girls to express themselves fully. Women are only recently taking more space in politics for example. How we are expected to behave tells about the power structures surrounding us.
Venus has been a place for the girls to articulate feelings and experiences on being a girl. Just sharing experiences between the group has been very empowering. We realized that there are a lot of things we should not accept . As an example online harassment. We don’t talk enough about it, even though it is widespread and very young girls fall victim to it. Even worse, they blame themselves for it. If anything, this needs to be shouted about!!